Seaweed snack innovator creates ‘underwater garden’ to build sustainable business

When Ash Sutton realized that the seaweed growing on his farm off the west coast of Australia had a texture similar to lollipop snakes, he started thinking about his next business move.

“It’s such a cool product. I thought I wouldn’t refine it, I wouldn’t process it, but wouldn’t it be nice if it actually tasted like a lollipop,” he said. declared.

It’s been four years and taken “lots of checkbooks” but he’s about to launch two seaweed products as alternatives to lollipops and jerky.

The process of turning red spinosum into edible products is a closely guarded secret.

Mr Sutton says the products contain ‘nothing artificial’ and are sweetened with honey collected from his farm in Greenough, just south of Geraldton.

“It’s straight from the ocean to your mouth,” he said.

“It has undergone rigorous shelf-life testing…the government bureaucracy has been hard work, but [with] persistence… it’s very exciting to be able to get it to the consumer.”

Seaweed has been developed into alternatives to lollipop and jerky.(Provided: Ash Sutton)

Mr Sutton’s seaweed farm is in the southern group of the Abrolhos Islands, a rugged, windswept coral archipelago 60 kilometers off Geraldton.

The howling winds and swells made it difficult for the farming trip to find the balance between seaweed getting enough sun and shelter from the strong ocean currents.

“You see the cold fronts coming in and you go out next week and all your stuff is scattered out of the lines. I had to move my location a couple of times because of the weather,” he said.

But the isolation of the Abrolhos makes the water pristine and ideal for algae production.

Back to the islands

Mr Sutton lived in Asia for 10 years where he noticed that ‘seaweed was on just about every menu and an integral part of life’. Back in Australia, he decided to try his hand at growing seaweed.

A pile of purple/red seaweed in the foreground, in the background a man leans on a cabin door.
Ash Sutton has spent the past four years developing a seaweed farm in the Abrolhos Islands. (Rural ABC: Joanna Prendergast)

It was a homecoming, having spent his early years working in the commercial fishing industry around the Abrolhos Islands.

“I thought, well, I’m fed up if I’m going to do commercial fishing. I still love working on the ocean and I’d like to do a business that’s sustainable for the environment and the ocean,” did he declare.

After obtaining a permit to catch 50 kilograms of wild seaweed, he started his farming operation.

“It’s like a big underwater garden and after four years of diving and looking at the algae you sort of practice, wait a minute, it doesn’t grow so well here and it only works under this amount of light and the amount of coral,” he said.

“After it reaches a certain size, which is about three months, I will come and harvest the cuttings, and they will continue to grow.

“So it’s really sustainable. It’s like you never touch the environment again.”

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